The new season of the “For All Mankind” space series begins on Friday. To fill the waiting time, Apple launched the corresponding augmented reality app. It’s more than just a gimmick, it shows where the company wants to go.
The world is not enough. At least Tim Cook is convinced. The president of Apple is one of the biggest advocates of so-called augmented reality, and even the “next big thing”. Simply put, AR, the common abbreviation, is a technology by which virtual objects are anchored to real-world recordings. The live camera image is actually expanded with additional levels. Most people interacted with it for the first time in the smartphone game “Pokemon Go” when the beloved monsters suddenly appeared everywhere on our shopping streets.
A lot has happened since then. In the education sector, augmented reality apps are booming, as you can virtually dissect a frog or examine anatomically correct models of the human body in your own living room. In e-commerce, too, retailers are increasingly experimenting with augmented reality: Furniture retailers are allowing the new sofa to be projected onto their four walls. On the other hand, shoe retailer lets you put virtual sneakers on your feet. Cook asserts time and time again that augmented reality will “permeate our entire lives”.
AR is set to enhance business flow
Hollywood has also become increasingly passionate about technology. Two years ago, the pay TV broadcaster HBO developed Snapchat’s augmented reality functionality for the final season of “Game of Thrones,” in which a giant ice dragon could land on a New York skyscraper. Nice effect, but in the end it’s nothing more than a gimmick.
Apple now demonstrates that augmented reality can be more than showstopping art. On Friday, the company will kick off the second season of “For All Mankind” on its Apple TV + live broadcasting service. The story of the moon landings has been rewritten: instead of Americans, the Soviet Union wins the space race. The second season takes place ten years after the events of the first. If you want to know what happened in the decade between them, you will find the answers in an AR app called “For All Mankind: Time Capsule” specially developed for this series. It’s currently only available in the USA, Great Britain and New Zealand, with a release in this country in the next few weeks.
The app brings the early 1980s to your four walls: play VHS tapes, listen to mixed tapes, read letters, and use an Apple II computer. Especially cool: this slideshow projector can display recordings on your walls.
However, for the latter, the current iPhone 12 or iPad Pro with lidar sensor is required. Only this is able to use lasers to measure the environment in real time with millimeter accuracy and to precisely anchor digital objects in a room. This makes the effects appear more realistic.
“For All Mankind: Time Capsule” tells a linear story spanning 45 to 60 minutes. Apple could have styled this in the form of a traditional video game. But augmented reality is the perfect opportunity to express the spirit of the series. For All Mankind is a series of reality series set in an alternate universe. Augmented reality also allows us to show an alternate version of our reality. In this case, technology is intertwined with narrative depth.
“You can offer more to the audience”
Continuing to tell the complex story of “For All Mankind” in a new app was an opportunity that inventor and producer Ronald De Moore (“Battlestar Galactica”, “Mission Impossible II”) was very happy to seize. strict explained. “Creators like me have always been interested in giving more to the audience. We spent a lot of time creating these worlds, characters. Only a small fraction of them make it to the screen at the end. This is how you give the audience that loves the series, an opportunity to delve into.”
The app acts as a bridge between the two seasons and aims to shorten the waiting time for the next season and warm the weather. “Anyone who likes a series knows: Not enough content,” Moore said. “You always want to know more about what’s going on, regardless of whether it’s a science fiction series or a comedy.”
Excluding the “time capsule” as a proficient advertising ploy is not enough. Instead, the app should be seen as the first sign of how Apple wants to continually integrate its various business areas. You have to download the app from the App Store, it promotes a series that is only available from the company’s streaming service, and if you want to use all of the content, you need an updated device. This is how hardware, software, and services are combined.
A new form of storytelling
Ben McGuinness, co-producer of For All Mankind, said the app is being developed in parallel with the show’s second season. “We are always looking for ways to extend the story beyond the episodes. We knew when we got to Apple that there is a perfect coupling with augmented reality. We can create a new form of storytelling. That’s why we identified the possibilities of storytelling with this new medium.”
In order to move forward with the plot, the company has deliberately focused on a few elements that can only be seen briefly in the series, but which reveal more essential information in the app. There is a mixed tape that series character Danny Stevens made for his girlfriend Lisa indicating that they gave them to each other at school. “This way, we can convey the story with personal and interactive things,” says McGuinness.
The first step towards cinema of the future
Not surprisingly, Apple is working on additional AR content for its streaming offerings – business portal “Bloomberg” addressed the plans. Already in the past. The original plan was to publish content in 2020, but there were delays due to the Corona pandemic. However, many expected some kind of living companion to the TV show, and instead, the “time capsule” is an experience in itself.
The group needs innovative approaches that cause buzz in order to stand out from the broadcast competition. Although the group does not announce any specific subscriber numbers, analysts suggest that other service providers are far from the lead. The fastest growing service currently is Disney +, Netflix has more than 200 million active subscribers. Netflix also relies time and time again on innovative narration forms like the interactive film “Bandersnatch”, where one can influence the plot.
Although Apple has relied on augmented reality for many years, this phenomenon is still unknown to the general public. Meanwhile, hundreds of millions of devices that can play AR content have been shipped. This increases the attractiveness of developers to engage with this technology.
“I think this is something like the first iterations of how you watch TV, from augmented reality to virtual reality and beyond,” explains Moore, creator of For All Mankind. “The odds will increase as devices become more manageable and available in greater quantities.” In addition, augmented reality provides the opportunity to overcome the limits of the season. He is convinced that this technology will appear more frequently in films and series in the future. “You can definitely watch For All Mankind without the augmented reality elements,” Moore said. “But if you use the AR app first, it enriches the experience.”
Season 2 of “For All Mankind” begins February 19, 2021 on Apple TV +.
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